I Am Livia by Phyllis T. Smith: A Book Review

I Am Livia
Author: Phyllis T. Smith
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: 2014
Pages: 391
Source: Personal Collection
Synopsis: Her life would be marked by scandal and suspicion, worship and adoration…

     At the tender age of fourteen, Livia Drusilla overhears her father and fellow aristocrats plotting the assassination of Julius Caesar. Proving herself an astute confidante, she becomes her father’s chief political asset—and reluctantly enters into an advantageous marriage to a prominent military officer. Her mother tells her, “It is possible for a woman to influence public affairs,” reminding Livia that—while she possesses a keen sense for the machinations of the Roman senate—she must also remain patient and practical.

     But patience and practicality disappear from Livia’s mind when she meets Caesar’s heir, Octavianus. At only eighteen, he displays both power and modesty. A young wife by that point, Livia finds herself drawn to the golden-haired boy. In time, his fortunes will rise as Livia’s family faces terrible danger. But her sharp intellect—and her heart—will lead Livia to make an unbelievable choice: one that will give her greater sway over Rome than she could have ever foreseen.

     My Review: I am Livia recounts the early life of Livia Drusilla, wife of Emperor Augustus. Being the most powerful woman in Ancient Rome, she has often been maligned by her contemporaries. One myth was that she carried around poisons. Told from Livia’s perspective, this novel shows that Livia was Augustus’s political advisor and is a woman who wants her empire to have peace and prosperity.

     Livia is a sympathetic character. At first she is naive and very romantic, but after suffering many tragedies she becomes a strong and mature young woman. She can often be very cold, sometimes ruthless and unforgiving. However, she can also be kind and merciful at times, and bestows charity upon her friends. She is also very loyal to those who are dear to her. Livia abhors bloodshed and wants peace within her kingdom. She is also very intelligent and adept in politics. She wants her husband to be merciful with his enemies. She is also strong, courageous, and outspoken. She is not afraid to stand up for what she believes in.

     Overall, this book is about a woman trying to find peace and happiness in a cruel world. I liked how the author portrayed Ancient Rome, for it is a dangerous world full of war, bloodshed, and scandal. All these characters are complex characters. This novel is full of political intrigue, drama, treachery, and betrayal. I found this novel to be meticulously researched and beautifully written. I did find the ending to be rushed, and I would have liked for the novel to be longer. Nevertheless, I liked how it gave me a more sympathetic view of Livia. She is portrayed as a very human figure, and I found her actions to be relatable. She was a woman that wished for the good of her empire. I recommend this novel to fans of Michelle Moran, Kate Quinn, and Elizabeth Storrs.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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